Over mij

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maandag 12 september 2011

Interview (English) with one of the leading figures of February 20th Movement.

Translated from French by:
Mariam EL Maslouhi

Rabat -  One of the Founding members of the Movement February 20th Osama El Khlifi was one of  the first to call for demonstrations for political and social reforms in Morocco. While demonstrations were again held on Sunday 11th September across the country. He reviews six months of activism, and announces that he will not participate in parliamentary elections scheduled in November 2011, despite proposals from political parties. 

The Movement was born on February 20th, now a little over six months ago. 
What did the movement accomplish since then?

Osama El Khlifi: We have accomplished many positive things. Politicians woke up in Morocco. A new constitution was adopted. Although we believe that the Constitution was not adopted democratically, one must admit that this change took place due to the  February 20 movement.
There was also some progress on the social plan: the rise in salaries, more unemployed graduates have obtained a job.

Ousama El Khlifi in Rabat at one of the feb20 protests
But although some progress has been made, they do not actually reflect the basic demands of the Movement which are:

 - a true constitutional monarchy with a king who reigns but does not govern,
 - the fight against corruption,
 - the release of all political prisoners,
 - a true marital status,
 - freedom of expression,
 - individual freedoms. 

Even if the regime did not respond to the demands of the movement, and even though we made some mistakes, the results are positive.

What mistakes do you think the movement made? We have contacted the wrong people. We went out every Sunday on the street. If you go out into the street every Sunday, you have no time to talk with people. Plus people can not show up every Sunday. The number of protesters has dropped.

We have also allowed political parties to join the commissions of the Movement. We know that the Moroccans do not trust political parties. The Moroccans have had negative experiences with political parties. The people loved the movement because it is young and independent. After the integration of political parties, there was a decline in the number of demonstrators.

How do you see the future of the Movement? We will continue to go out into the street because the street is a strategic choice of the Movement. Because this way you can put pressure on the regime to get an answer to our demands. 

The Movement remained open to everyone. So, any newcomer has as much to say as you, a founding member, at general meetings. Do you need to refocus the movement around its founding members?
We are Democrats. If we had a leader who managed everything, it would be a bureaucracy. This "openness" is both positive and negative. It is positive because it's a way of showing that we want a real democracy in Morocco.

But it is also negative because people of different political parties joined to proclaim their own demands (propaganda). We trusted them too much. That was our mistake. 

What are you going to change? You can not recreate the core of the Movement and I am against this. But we will push at general meetings to put the movement back on track.

The presence of many Islamist militants of the association Al Adl Wal Ihsan (Justice and Charity) seems to be a problem ...Although I am leftist, I have no problem with the Islamists. As a democrat, I can not attack them. But the way they work has created problems for the February 20th Movement. They are not clear.
When we speak of parliamentary monarchy, they talk about things that have nothing to do with our demands: the Caliphate, for example.
I met the leaders of Al Adl Wal Ihsan before the February 20th. But we had agreed on the fact that they would support the Movement and that they would participate in the events and agree with the demands of the Movement.In addition, they are not for individual freedoms, equality between men and women. It bothers me that men and women do not protest side by side. We will address this problem in the upcoming general meetings.

"The absence of ideology is our strength" 

Do you think the Movement can last without ideology? This lack of ideology is our strength. We are a mix of leftists, liberals, Islamists.This is not a weakness.

Some of your comrades in the Movement have recently issued a statement that criticized your output in the media..This press release doesn't bother me. In the statement it says I am not the spokesman of the Movement. I never said I was the spokesman of the Movement.
I am one the founders of the Movement, I am the first to have called for demonstrations, but I am not the leader of the Movement, nor the spokesman. 

Is there any tensions with your comrades in the Movement?
Yes, there is but I am human and I make mistakes. My comrades have the right to criticize me. Although sometimes they exaggerate a bit. This is normal in politics.You can not work without making mistakes.
Sometimes some of my statements were taken out of context. I am a figure of the movement so the press focuses on me. I'm only 24 years and I do not have much political experience so I am still learning. 

Ousama El Khlifi hospitalized after being attacked by police
You have been through a lot these couple of months. You have been attacked by the police several times and you were hospitalized. Is this not a high price you have to pay?No. When we first called for protests, I knew it was risky, I could be arrested or even killed. I do not mind.

This summer, rumors have circulated regarding your participation in parliamentary elections in November 2011. Will you run for office? The USFP asked me to introduce myself as the top. Other parts of the system too. I decided, after discussing this with my friends in the Movement, that I won't participate.
Because in the preparation of these elections, we see that the elections are not fair and corruption will still occur, there is no renewal of policy.
Before February 20, during my first interview, I said I was going to be an activist of the Movement February 20th. I want nothing else. I do not want to be a leader. I just want to defend the Movement. When the regime will respond, I will leave the political arena.